MANILA—"I believe that what I did was the right thing to do."
For House Deputy Speaker Bienvenido Abante Jr., his vote to grant ABS-CBN Corp. a fresh franchise last year was something that he did not regret, even if it was unpopular.
"In most cases, one can have a clearer view of one's decision and actions in the past . . . I would have to say that I believe that my vote to last year's granting ABS-CBN a franchise was the right thing to do given what we knew then and what we know now... I voted something good at that time," Abante said in an interview on ANC.
Abante, one of the so-called "Brave 11" Lower House lawmakers who backed the license renewal, said he would not have voted otherwise despite colleagues warning him that supporting the network at that time was "political suicide."
"That would be political suicide on my part. I would rather be truthful than try to skirt the issue. All along, in all of my political exercise or mandate, I have not been afraid to stand to what I believe is right," he said.
"Whether they call it political suicide, then it is still that people would have to make a decision on. To me, I believe what I did was right, it was good not only for ABS-CBN but for the Filipino people as well . . . [And] for the 11,000 workers of ABS-CBN."
He also questioned the 70 House lawmakers who opposed the network, pointing out that various regulatory agencies cleared ABS-CBN of violations during the 12 hearings.
Rep. Carlos Zarate agreed with Abante, saying the decision not to grant ABS-CBN its franchise was premeditated.
Zarate added that he stood by his vote to support ABS-CBN since it was for the sake of issues such as press freedom, access to free information, among other things.
"Even prior to the summation and these hearings, there is already a decision to really not grant the franchise of ABS-CBN. It comes from ex cathedra if I may say, from the seat, authority in Malacañang," he said.
"I think that's part of our position, that we have to stand on our ground. We believe that it is right not only for ABS-CBN, for the owners of ABS-CBN, but for the sake of bigger issues."
The House lawmakers should have also given weight to what various regulatory agencies said, like how the Supreme Court gives importance to them when making decisions.
Despite this, Filipinos should be reminded of this experience.
"One lesson that we have to get from this experience . . . In the coming months and years . . . Press forward, push back. We can rise from this situation, we can wake up from this nightmare. We can crawl out from this tortured chamber that we have now."
The non-renewal of its franchise forced ABS-CBN to lay off thousands of workers at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving households in rural areas without a stable source of information amid several calamities that hit the country.